Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Silhouetted Dream: How to Type Cast Those Without Type

Tia also exercised her talents in Color Guard and choir the
same year.

It’s amazing how three little words can be so hard to say- and it’s not “I love you”- instead these three words create an ache in your soul, and an emptiness in your heart. And sometimes, as difficult as it may be, we have no other choice than to say these words. I remember when it happened to me.

Disappointment crept its way into my world as I said it - “I give up.”

I used to dream of being the main character in my high school plays, to perhaps pursue acting as a second major in my University, and maybe even become a Broadway star. I didn’t give up because I didn’t have the talent. All my talent could not compete with this one factor- Type Casting.

After acing callbacks for Into the Woods and still not seeing my name on the list, I decided to inquire why I did not get a certain part. My theatre teacher, who evaluated the try-outs, said:

“You are a wonderful actress, and you performed very well… the only thing is that you just….” I could see her fumbling around for the least offensive words “… you are a very beautiful girl…” I already knew what she was going to say. She just had let me down softly “… you just don’t look the part.”

I didn’t need to ask her what the part looked like. It was Rapunzel for crying out loud, the white princess stuck in the tower with her long hair which was “yellow as corn.” It’s obvious that I do not match this description at all, but couldn’t they have put a wig on me? They were going to have to put a wig on anyone else who got the part because no one had hair that long.

But the other big factor: Rapunzel’s skin color was supposed to be very fair. Even if I stayed indoors and kept away from windows for months, my skin would be permanently tan because I am mixed. Then again, they could paint me white, right? It’s a ridiculous thing to consider; and it’s obvious that under stage lighting it would not look right. Besides it’s a lot easier and a lot less work to just pick the blonde white girl for the part even though she couldn’t hit all of the notes of Rapunzel’s song.

Oh, don’t get me wrong; I did get a part in this play - Cinderella’s Mother. Isn’t she white too? Yes definitely, and the girl playing Cinderella was white as well. But there was a catch. In this play Cinderella’s Mother was a tree. Yup. A tree. You can only imagine my enthusiasm when I learned this.

Doesn’t every kid dream of being that tree in the school play?

When I learned that there would be a hole in the tree so that my chest up to my face could be seen, I was a little more content with the idea (at least people would know who I am). But then a screen was put over this hole to shade the details of my face and bright light was installed within the tree. And in an instant, I was turned into a silhouette. You would not recognize that it was me in that tree. I was just a shadowy figure within the tree. And it made me laugh, how could I think they would let a mixed girl play the part of a white character? Shame on me.

And it was indeed shame on me. The saying “Fool me once shame on you, Fool me twice shame on me” is a very accurate one. This was the second time I found myself in this situation. Before this occasion I had tried out for the play Huckleberry Finn. You’d think with black and white races I’d have had a chance. Wrong. I’m obviously not fit to play the part of a white (as mentioned above) and I couldn’t fit the part of any of the black women who were featured. My hair wasn’t dark enough or (for lack of a better word) nappy enough, and my skin is not dark enough.

There was only one character in that play that had no description. She had a few lines, and a small part. She had no name; instead she was referred to as “The Strange Woman.” A bonnet covered my hair and I wore glasses. But I could not, absolutely would not, have a big part in this play, or any high school play in the future. Type Casting does not work on a person who does not have one “type”.

And it was these two occasions that led to my admittance of those three dreadful words. How could I dream to be a part of something where I would be judged by my look and not solely my talent? I had to give up. Because I am mixed, I cannot have the part of the white woman and I cannot have the part of the black woman. There aren’t many high school plays or Broadway productions that are written for people of a mixed race. And when you are somewhere in between, then that’s where you will always be.

By Tia Hannah 

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